Jungle Babbler Series: Q&A session with Dr. Sanjay Gubbi on his book "Leopard Diaries: The Rosette in India"

Welcome to our Jungle Babbler Series 

In this series we look at highlighting wilderness-focused travel companies, charitable organisations & individuals, who have an insight into the wilderness, the communities they associate or work with, and programs. The main objective is to know how they plan on sustaining the future with the work they are carrying out and the ways in which they can give back something to communities living there. 

Enjoy Jungle Babbler 

In this series we have a Q&A session with India’s wildlife conservation scientist & author Sanjay Gubbi, who recently launched his book ‘Leopard Diaries: The Rosette in India’. We ask about how the book came along and insights to leopard’s existence in the wild. Sanjay holds a doctorate in leopard ecology and conservation. In 2017, he was the winner of the Whitley Award (popularly known to many as the green Oscars), and also the recipient of the first Co-existence Award in 2019 by Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, and the Carl Zeiss Conservation Award amongst other many accolades

Thank you Sanjay for being with us on our Jungle Babbler Series. 

Congratulations on the launch of your new book ‘Leopard Diaries - The Rosette in India’.  

Q: Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself and how did all this start for you in the field of wildlife conservation?

As a high school student, I got the opportunity to learn about outdoors through the scout movement – camping, nature studies, star gazing were all part of it which had a profound impact on me. This led to birdwatching which exposed me to conservation problems. Further, a small group of friends thought we should “educate” people about conservation. So, we started going around villages with a rudimentary slide projector and screen tied to a Luna moped. We thought we would do something for conservation but we were shouted at, chastised about crop-raiding wild pigs, macaques, livestock lifting leopards and other issues. This were my first learnings on human-wildlife conflict. I learnt many of the conservation issues through such interactions with villagers, politicians, media personnel and others. I later started going to Nagarahole and that helped me get into large mammal conservation.

Q: I know you have been writing in many print media about wildlife conservation, why this book and what was your take on writing about leopards?

I grew up in leopard country, my home district Tumkur in southern Karnataka is part of the Deccan Plateau and is rich in dry area wildlife including leopards. Leopard is a perfect carnivore – stealth, camouflage, grace, agility all make it a captivating large cat. This has fascinated me immensely.

There is abundant literature on tigers but very little when it comes to leopards, and we continue to read British era hunting literature. In addition, though leopards are found widely in India they are also in trouble due to various threats. Hence if we need to find support for leopard conservation we should reach out to the general public, policymakers, media, and social influencers. Besides, we need to get the attention of young conservation enthusiasts who are being misguided by ‘soap opera’, ‘reality show’ kind of conservation activities. I also hope that the book will enthuse a few wildlife biologists to engage with real-world conservation. Merely writing a nice scientific paper will not save wildlife. I hope the three years I put in authoring this book will help motivate people into wildlife conservation in whatever little manner possible.

Q: Can you give us an insight about the spotted cat, its population & human-animal conflicts?

It is a perfect carnivore – stealth, camouflage, grace, agility all make it a captivating large cat which has immensely fascinate people. Despite being found widely in the country, and their population is higher than tigers, they are elusive like phantoms and draws our curiosity. 

Based on our research, my estimate for Karnataka is 2,500 leopards. On the national level, I think we have over 20,000 leopards. The numbers are very reasonable but we need to ensure their natural habitats and prey are well protected to sustain these numbers.

Leopards are one of the highly conflict-prone wildlife species in the country in addition to elephants, wild pigs, sloth bears, bluebull and others. The negative interactions with leopards and humans mostly involve killing of livestock, injury to people and occasionally death of people. However, these days even mere sighting of a leopard close to human habitations is considered as conflict. This conflict has to come down in the larger interest of leopard and wildlife conservation. 

Q: How can someone who is not a part of a scientific platform be involved with wildlife conservation and especially participate in leopard conservation?

Anyone interested in nature- artists, businessperson, media personnel, farmers, doctors, writers, architects, students, etc. all can contribute to wildlife conservation. It’s easier if they use their existing skills to support conservation under the guidance of an experienced organisation/individual. If they would like to do hands-on conservation my suggestion is that it is best to first get a good understanding about ecosystems, conservation policies, and other aspects. Or else a lot of things could go wrong. Mere emotional outcry or outbursts on social media can do very little for wildlife.    

Q: Give us a paragraph of your book ‘Leopard Diaries: The Rosette in India’ which acts as a great summary to take back home?

Leopard Diaries is based on our research, conservation work and observations from leopard habitats. Our research has a multi-faceted approach and includes camera trapping to understand leopard populations, occupancy surveys for understanding their distribution and drivers, studying human-leopard conflict, and policies towards leopard conflict. It has taken nearly a decade and we intend to continue this in a much longer-term.   

Q: Where can we get your book and can you send us all the links etc for our readers to get themselves a copy?

The book is available on online platforms across the globe, and at all leading bookstores in India. (Amazon India | Flipkart)

If any reader is interested to have a signed copy they can contact our office (annapoorna@ncf-india.org) and we can send them a signed copy.

Thank you once again Sanjay for your participation on our Jungle Babbler Series, we wish you all the success with your conservation work and thank you on giving us a slight insight to the rosette in India.  

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